Category Archives: The Healers’ Life (THR3)

Hey, this microphone was turned on all along


I never found a story like that. I tried, or at least I tried not to write the sort of stuff I’d been writing for the last several years. That approach felt pretty terrible. Of course, “I wanted to” is not the only reason to make a decision — but at the end of the day, I had to conclude that I wanted to write in this universe more than I wanted to do the right thing. Not a great thing to realize about oneself. But here we are.

I continue to grapple with my own Stuff, but that’s what therapy is for. We’re here to talk about stories. And this story isn’t dead yet. I’m kind of scared of it. I don’t know the right way to write it. It’s been very slow going. But I work on it. Should work on it more! November is coming; maybe I’ll harness that habit to get back into the groove.

Anyway, if I may get into the weeds further, the scary conundrums in Book 3 include:

(books 1 and 2 spoilers follow, if anyone cares?)

– The eternal shipper question. It is, paradoxically, kind of nice that the beta reader who was the most outspoken anti-shipper is no longer reading. Mwahahaha! Of the two remaining, one is a fervent A/K shipper (and Marco’s biggest hater <3) and the other is in the “sure, I can see it now” camp.

– Corollary to the above: the specter of bisexual erasure and the Scylla-and-Charybdis of terrible stereotypes. To mix metaphors even further, Kei’s orientation is not a waveform that can collapse. If he ends up with a woman, that doesn’t make him “cured,” and the setting is built so that that attitude would never even come up, in-universe.

However, I worry what that looks like, out-of-character. The “whew, ended up in a nice tidy traditional relationship after all!” “happy” ending is a trope with an ugly history. I’d hate to travel all this way just to fall into an old, awful homophobic pattern accidentally.

On the other hand, as written so far, he’s a character with a fairly strong (though not universal) tendency toward monogamy; if he ends up with someone at all, we have this problem, and if he doesn’t, we have the “queer people don’t get happy endings” problem, where  “happy” is “the goal the character has been pursuing.” (And if he didn’t have a monogamous tendency, we land in another stereotype. Ughhhh, stereotypes!)

Write queer characters, people — this isn’t a reason not to — but I worry about these kinds of things. Clearly, the answer is to write more queer characters, so we have more than one data point to understand the patterns or the lack thereof. And to that I can only say, I’m sorry I write so slowly.

While I’m angsting about bad queer stereotypes, I’d just like to say for the record that I regret missing the opportunity to write Agna as demisexual back in book 1. I think it fits her really well — with the exception of the Laris subplot. We’d had to have accomplished that break in the tone of the story in some other way, but I think it would have made a stronger throughline in her character’s personal history. I didn’t even think of it at the time. Ah well.

– Corollary II: as I’ve written about before, I think that stories about friendship are worthwhile. I’m just not entirely sure this is the story where I want to go that route.

So all of that worry about shipping (or not) stacks up against my very pronounced penchant for writing cute/awkward romance plots.

– I have some concerns about the larger chronology — I’m aiming to write a book about Agna’s sister next, which will have to fit into the chronology of Agna’s story. Continuity makes me nervous, especially since I’m still too poor to hire an editor or pay beta readers. Still, can’t be helped. Gotta forge on ahead.

Those are some reasons why I keep moving slowly. I also had to pause and do a little research on medical history and diseases — fun! But mostly it’s this mental block, worrying that I’m not going to do it right. Of course, as they say, you can’t fix it if it doesn’t exist.

I’m working on making it exist.

[Edit to add: And as for the reader side — which I kind of miss blogging about — we finally rejoined our local library! Overdrive / Libby is my new BFF! That was probably the most exciting thing to happen to me in the last 6 months, I’m not even kidding. FREE BOOKS, people. I’m also focusing on reading down my TBR pile, as always. It’s in the 60s now, not counting my library holds/wishlist.]

So, where are we?

Last time I said I was going to try to finish the first draft of Book 3 before Origins, which happens next week.  So…?

The answer is “no, BUT.” I have written a lot of material, and re-outlined most of the book — not a lot has changed, but a couple of events were shifted around to tweak the tension. Of what’s outlined, all but two scenes are finished.  The outline covers the beginning through the last turning point, right before the Victorious Resolution of All Problems and the denouement. In other words, everything but the ending.

Some further reading while we all wait:

How Fake Science Saved Lives in Victorian London (io9)

Without getting too far into the weeds of lore, the history of miasma theory was the basis of a lot of the “magic science” in this series. In short, if healing magic exists, why wouldn’t people think that magic causes diseases generally? It’s important for healing, so it must be important for other health-related situations too.

And so through trial and error and just-so stories and folklore, they wind up with a lot of bogus reasoning for useful practices. Such as: boiling lake water to make it drinkable. Obviously, boiling drives out the tainted magical energy that would otherwise make people sick. And when people start to discover microorganisms, the proverbial waters get muddied with ideas that people already had about magic.

Origins, though: I actually signed up for some writing lectures/workshops, which, you know, would be the first writing workshops I’ve been to since tenth grade. I KNOW RIGHT WHAT. Self-publishing is terrifying, who let this amateur write books??

Anyhow, the con has several authors as guests/speakers, and quite a robust lineup of fiction- and game-writing talks. I’ve pre-registered for three, and will consider more as social anxiety / spoons / blood sugar / inertia allow.  Also, well, working around shopping time, going out for food time, nap time, board game playing time, and attending workshops on things like terrain building and chainmail making. There are almost too many things to do at this con. It’s great.

I’ve also signed up for a demo/learn-to-play session for Ryuutama, the game book I bought last year and have yet to play at all. Four words, people: “Hayao Miyazaki’s Oregon Trail.” And “cute” can be an actual in-game descriptor for a piece of equipment. And the character classes include “farmer.” I mean. How could I not.

Deadlines! Sure!

A few days ago, I realized that it was 50 days until our departure for the Origins tabletop-gaming convention. (The con starts a day or two earlier, but we aren’t going for 100% of its run time.)

I know an arbitrary deadline when I see one, so I decided that I’d attempt to finish the first draft of Book 3 before we left. This is a pretty tall order, but not impossible. Even my minimum of 500 words a day would stack up to 25,000 words.

This is just the first draft, mind you; the comparable draft of Book 2 was missing about a quarter of the chapters that appear in the final draft, mostly in the first act. This is a raggedy sprint to the finish line, however incomplete.

It’s going pretty okay so far, though there are sections with weird gaps and rewrites, and I’m currently working on two different chapters at once thanks to my weird workflow/habits. Still, it’s progressing. And hey, if I don’t make the deadline, I will still have a lot more written than I would otherwise. That doesn’t unwrite itself just because I miss an arbitrary cutoff.

45 days to go. We’ll see.

Yeah, “enter title here” is oddly apropos

Despite the complete lack of any kind of marketing effort from me, a few people have picked up Book 2 recently. If you’re the sort who reads things shortly after buying them,

  1. Welcome! If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoy the coincidental timing of both books starting in the spring.
  2. Also, HOW do you start reading things shortly after buying them??? Please teach me your secrets, because I think the book I’m on right now has been in my TBR pile for over 2 years.

After getting a new phone this weekend and getting logged out of everything on earth, I looked up my Big List of Logins Like You’re Not Supposed to Have and realized something. The reason I haven’t updated anything on my Goodreads page is that somewhere along the line, I lost my Goodreads-as-author login. There’s just a line like “Here’s the email address it’s associated with, I have no idea what the password is”

Thanks, me. How Not to Indie Author: +20 points. It would also help if I remembered the password to that email, which I do not. I think it’s on the list.

My husband — who actually checks things, and would be my publicist if I were big enough to need one — told me there was a question posted on Goodreads a while back, and I meant to answer it, but yeah. I will have to Restore Password first. The answer is disappointing, anyway; they had asked about pronunciations, and my answer is “anything that sounds good to you.” No maps yet, no dragons, and no pronunciation keys. YAY FANTASY 😀

Act 2 continues at the pace of about 500 words a day, which is my self-imposed minimum. Right now it’s in that “the narrators hate everything because they’ve made the mistakes, but have not yet figured out the answers” phase. It will hit some more interesting things within the next day or two, so that should help. Still can’t make any specific date promises, but progress is progress.

Mailing list is open!

Among the many things I have learned from trying to release indie books is that trying to have a mailing list when you use Gmail is A Very Bad Idea. Who knew that was important? Apparently it is! Really important! I tried to announce Book 2, got tossed out of my mailing list service iiiiiimmediately, and then kicked dirt for several months, feeling cruddy about it, because I had no idea what the what it’s all email isn’t it argh.

So now I have a real-enough? email through my web host, which with hopes will be sufficient to not get tossed from another mailing list provider. Fingers crossed. The form is over on the sidebar. If you’d like to hear by email when Book 3 is released, or Book 2 finally gets to print-on-demand, or whatever, sign up. I lack both the energy and the desire to send extraneous announcements and advertisements, so rest assured that it won’t result in avalanches of spam.


Meanwhile, I have rewritten the end of Act 1 of Book 3 about five times by last count. It feels like trying to stick the landing on a triple lutz, and every time it’s not quite right. …Bear in mind I have not attempted to figure skate since approx. age 9.

I think I have it now, though. I think. The few folks I’ve told about it IRL keep calling it “the pandemic book,” which I feel is vastly overselling the drama factor involved. Yeah OK there’s a pandemic, but it’s in the same manner that there’s a class uprising in book 2. Technically, wedged in among all the feels-ing.

I’m also embarking on a very overdue project of mapping out the cities of Wildern and Murio. Those two lead the pack because they’re still helpful for me in the writing process; after that I’ll make a nicer version of a Kavera / Golden Caravan map than the just-above-MSPaint version I used while writing The Healers’ Road.

This never was the end

I never truly gave up, but I set my tools down and walked away for a while. As I’d mentioned, I can be easily frustrated and discouraged, and after struggling for a long time to release Book 2, I didn’t weather its failure very well. I’ll own up to that.

The thing about failure, though, is that while it may exist, there’s no rule about how I have to feel about it. It’s only convention, a social contract, that says that I need to crawl away in disgrace if I fail. I’ve mentioned before that unlike conventional publishing, indie/self-publishing only really has one metric of success: money. Almost nobody in this horde gets critical acclaim (though some may be worthy of it); few awards are open to this field; there’s not really any such thing as a cult following. You prove your worth by making piles of money, and thereby Prove Everybody Wrong. There really isn’t any other option.

And I did not do that. Okay. Now what. Going back to my list of priorities, Priority 0 is “is this fun or at least gratifying?” Now let’s look at the options.

1) Change what I’m writing so that people want to buy it. Well, I could, but it would be a different, more tiring kind of fun, if at all.
2) Quit. What fun is that?
3) Fail, and do it anyway.

Here we are at option 3. I’m not so arrogant to say that I define what matters in indiepub. But I can say what matters to me. What matters to me is enjoying writing, and getting better at it whenever I can. After watching the sales numbers die on the vine, I reminded myself of where I “came from”: first writing just for myself or a friend, and then several years in fanfic. I did this for free. All the time. And it was fun. Yeah, more people read my fic in the end than read my books (understandably, familiar settings/characters blahblahblah), but I wasn’t even in it for attention or glory. It was just fun.

I won’t deny that Book 2 sank without a ripple. I won’t deny that there is no practical reason to write Book 3, or the others taking shape in this series. There’s no reason to write anything at all, except that I want to. Except that it makes me happy. And sure, I could write them and not release them, but that double-edged sword of a low barrier to entry says: why not? What’s it going to hurt? One more drop in the ocean.

I started writing Book 3 thirty-two days ago. Theoretically, it will cap off Agna and Keifon’s story. (Getting into what that story should be is another crisis of conscience entirely.) Unlike my last writing-every-day spree, I am not limiting myself to word count, and some days it’s slow going. And it isn’t always on that project; this post counts as today’s writing. But it’s something. Every day. That’s how I got to where I am now, after all.

Book 3 is underway, because it’s fun. At this rate, negative 250 people will read it. It will unread itself. But it’s still fun. I can’t explain why or how, but there it is. I’m also outlining and planning, and occasionally writing bits, for two others: one about Agna’s sister Lina, and one taking place a bit before The Healers’ Road, with some classmates of Rone’s. Who knows whether they’ll make any of that all-important money. I enjoy working on them anyway.

That’s the update. That there is an update. I’m glad of that.